Look, I don’t know how accurate a measure of usage “total user seconds” is, though many developers have dismissed this as a misleading stat, and not as indicative nor valuable as a more common figure, like active users.
Regardless, X owner Elon Musk firmly believes that this is the most accurate indicator of engagement, and today, he’s shared the latest update on X’s active user seconds, which he claims shows significant increases in the app’s popularity.
Okay, let’s just break this down and dig into what these numbers actually mean, within the context of usage stats that people are more familiar with.
First off, in terms of total user seconds, X’s average over the last week is 360.7 billion seconds per day. That’s the whole time that users spent in the app, which, on the face of it, is an incredible amount of time.
But breaking that down, 360.7 billion user seconds equates to 6.01b total minutes per day. X claims to have 253 million daily users at last check, so if you divide the total minutes by total users, that’s an average of 23.8 minutes per day spent, per user, in the app every day.
Which is not close to what X reported back in October, when it said that users were spending an average of 32 minutes per day in the app, and lower than what the former Twitter team was reportedly seeing, at 30 minutes per day per user. So while the topline numbers look impressive, at many billions of seconds, the actual time spent per user is seemingly declining, not increasing, as Musk claims.
Though if average user seconds are increasing, then conversely, the total number of users must be in decline. X may be right in reporting that users are spending 32 minutes per day in the app, but for that to be true, that would mean that X is now only serving 185 million users per day, a drop of 68 million users.
So either X is seeing less usage per user than it claims, or it’s serving fewer users overall.
Or it’s just using active user seconds as a selective measurement, and over the past week, the numbers have increased. But overall, they’re not rising over time.
It’s also interesting to note the split between web and mobile users in these stats, with based on this, shows 88.55% of X users are logging in via mobile device, with most, presumably, accessing the platform via the app.
Which means that this stat, which Musk has also shared multiple times:
Is also largely irrelevant, because the measurement above is based on web traffic only (desktop and mobile), and does not include app usage. So X posts, which are indexed by Google, get more Search traction than Instagram content, which is only available to Google’s crawlers in limited capacity.
Essentially, this chart is comparing some 11% of X’s total traffic against a tiny fraction of Instagram’s overall usage numbers, because like X, most of IG’s usage is conducted in the app, not from users logging in on the web. So the broader suggestion that X is beating Instagram in usage is utterly flawed.
With this in mind, it’s hard to distinguish whether Musk is being deliberately deceptive, or he genuinely doesn’t understand the numbers before him. Both of these charts are not great indicators for X, with the second one showing that, somehow, IG was once beating it in web traffic, and remains relatively close, despite, as noted, IG posts not being fully indexed by Google.
In essence, the top chart shows that X is either losing active users, or keeping them around for less time. Which is also true of another stat that X has shared, that it’s seeing 1.5 million new account sign-ups every day. If that’s true, then they aren’t sticking around, because the overall usage numbers are not rising in-step.
Without certified oversight, it’s difficult to put much trust in these figures either way, because the ones that X is sharing don’t reflect what Elon and Co. seem to suggest.
In the end, the value of the platform from a marketing perspective comes down to your audience, and where they’re active. If they’re still engaging on X, then it should probably remain a consideration, but if you were looking for maximum reach, these numbers don’t showcase X’s expanding capacity, as Elon is saying.
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